Saturday, November 26, 2005

Russia to Buy Alaska?

I read the original Washington Post column by Steven Pealstein that proposed selling Alaska as a solution to America's financial problems. (It also said that Alaska had a Soviet-style economy because of federal spending obtained by Senator Ted Stevens [R-AK])It seems like a funny joke at the time--but apparently in Russia,according to RIA-Novosti, people are now discussing the idea seriously:


Alaska buyback: not for another 10 years - Russian expert

Russian experts are commenting on the proposal by Washington Post business columnist Steven Pearlstein that only Alaska's sale to Russia for $1 trillion would recoup U.S. costs.

Mikhail Delyagin, director of the Institute for Globalization Problems: "Russia should create a civilized state in the first place before buying Alaska. I think in about 10 years' time we will cope with the consequences of our national catastrophe, and the American problems will reach their peak. It is not before that we can speak of a buyback. Incidentally, Alaska may have a lower price tag by that time."

Sergei Markov, director of the Institute for Political Studies: "Why buy an almost deserted territory, snow and ice, when our people suffer suffocating poverty, and the health, education and other services are in ruins? Russia has vast tracts of land that it is unable to develop, for example Siberia, where there is the threat that it may be populated by other nations. Adding a new province will not make matters easier."

Dmitry Oreshkin, head of the Merkator research group: "It all sounds like a joke, although the patriots will be pleased. They will shout that it is a restoration of historical justice. They think along 19th century or Stalin-era lines when the perceived wisdom was that a state's territory is its might. Meanwhile, Holland, which is equal to Moscow and the surrounding area in size, is economically more influential than Russia with its 17 million square kilometers. It is a hare-brained plan. What Russia does not need is new territories. We are living in an era when infrastructure, rather than territory, is important."

Yevgeny Yasin, head of research at the Higher School of Economics: "If we are concerned with the problem of sterilization (excessive finances), we should first eliminate all obstacles to free entrepreneurship. In our case it is the very opposite: we are continuing to nationalize, and so the question has cropped up: should we not buy Alaska back?"

When I lived in Russia, my students would always say that Alaska should be returned to Russia, so Pearlstein may have started something here--resurrection of an irredentist territorial claim . . .